Log Date: Sunday, Jul 19, 2015
Entry By: Palau Aggressor Crew
Palau Aggressor Charter July 19th-26th 2015
Water Temp: 82-86 deg F
Air Temp: 79-87 deg F
Crew: Zach, Hector, Christy, Joe, Dan, Ernan and Sadie
Sunday afternoon we were greeted by thirteen guests who have made a long trip to join us aboard the Palau Aggressor II for a great week of diving. A handful of our guests this week are from Belgium, one came up from Australia and the remaining are from the mainland U.S. After being given a room briefing and setting up their gear the group joined the Captain upstairs for a vessel orientation before enjoying their welcome aboard dinner. Everyone turned in early as it was going to be a full on week with 24 planned dives to accomplish.
Monday morning everyone was up bright and early enjoying a cup of coffee and breakfast in the salon. Around 0700 the group joined our First Officer Dan for a dive deck briefing. This is a basic run down of how we like to do things aboard the PA2 to keep the entire group safe and on the same page. After finishing this briefing and loading up all of our gear we were off to our first dive on the Helmet Wreck. This wreck wasn’t discovered until the mid eighties and it littered with WWII artifacts. Numerous depth charges are found in the holds of this vessel along with Saki bottles and airplane engines. Our second dive was to a smaller wreck not to far way known as the ‘Hafa Adai’ wreck. This was a communications boat that sunk not during the war but some years later. Being smaller than the first wreck what this site lacks in size it makes up for in marine life. Guests were able to explore around the wreck and surrounding sea floor finding multiple Nudibranchs and Spot Fin Lion fish. Over lunch the big boat was making its way south towards Ngemelis Island. We dropped the anchor in a sandy patch not too far from German Channel and made our way to Big Drop Off for the third dive. This would be the first dive on the outer reef for our group and they were taken back by the beautiful sea fans and soft corals that line the wall. Schools of fish were hovering in the shallows and a Green Turtle was spotted towards the end of the dive. Our final dive for the day was in German Channel. With an incoming tide the guests dropped in near a red Sea Anemone and slowly made their way towards the cleaning station. A massive school of Black Snapper was spotted sitting almost motionless above a few coral heads, presumably enjoying the incoming current. Sharks are an ever present feature here and the Black Tip Reef sharks slowly swam in and out of the group before returning to their main focus, the bait ball towards the surface. The group spent most of their time at the mouth of the channel before floating with the current to make the ascent. We made our way back to the big boat after this dive, cleaned up and had a delicious Swordfish dinner prepared by the Chef Christy. Our Skiff Captain and Dive master Joe then briefed the guests on the benefits of using a reef hook and showed them how to get set up in preparation of tomorrows ‘hook in’ dives.
We started off Tuesday morning with a dive on Blue Corner. This site is probably the most famous in all of Palau and it surely did not let us down. The group descended and made their way along the wall, checking out into the blue every now and again as the sharks and schools of Barracuda swam by. Upon reaching the hook in site the Divemasters helped all of the guests get set up and then we were able to relax and enjoy the show as we were lifted off the reef in the gentle current. Black Tip Reef sharks cruised back and forth while the multiple reef fish danced across the bubbles as the divers exhaled. Our friends the Napoleon Wrasse showed up to say hello and allowed the guests to take a few photos before continuing down the reef. Our second dive of the day was on Blue Holes. This site is picturesque as the morning sunshine beams through the top of the reef and lights up the cavern below. Upon entering the cavern the group explored a bit and found a couple Disco Clams. Just outside the cavern stands a giant pink Sea Fan that is home to three Pygmy Seahorses! Extremely tiny and well camouflaged these little guys are quite the treat to find. We continued down the wall and saw numerous sharks as well as schools of Jacks, Snappers and Chevron Barracuda. New Drop Off which resembles a small Blue Corner was our third dive of the day. An outgoing current took us down the wall to our hook in site with ease. Along the way we were able to spot a few juvenile Black Tip Reef sharks and turtles. Atop the plateau a multitude of small critters can be found. Multiple Nudibranchs and Flatworms were seen ever so slowly making their way around the coral. A few Sea Anemones play host to numerous fish and Harlequin Shrimp. After spending a full hour looking around we made our way to the surface and then back to the big boat for an afternoon snack. The next dive was on Turtle Cove. This is a sheer wall which is covered in hard and soft corals. The color variety seen here is unparalleled. Beautiful Sea Fans stick out from the wall, Black Corals jut out on every turn and brightly colored sponges fill in the gaps. The current was mild and allowed us to drift along easily as we observed all this site had to offer. Our evening dive was on Big Drop Off. This is a sheer wall dive and every night dive we have on it we find something new. Tonight we spotted a Moray Eel out on the hunt and the Divemaster Dan found a Cockatoo Wasp Fish.
Early Wednesday morning we fired up the engines on the big boat and made our way down to Peleliu Island. After pulling into the Camp Beck on the south of the island we geared up and got out to our first dive site which was to be Peleliu Cut. A good moving current quickly took us down the wall and we got hooked in. Big schools of Snapper and Jacks were swimming just off the plateau while multiple sharks weaved their way in and out. After returning about half of the group departed for the land tour. Multiple battle grounds were explored including Orange Beach and Bloody Nose Ridge. The museum on island is home to multiple relics as well. They have numerous machine guns on display, a torpedo as well as old flags and uniforms. After exploring the island the group made their way back to the big boat. Those who opted to dive instead of doing the land tour we dropped in on West Wall. This is another sheer wall that has a plethora of corals and marine life. White Tip Reef sharks glide back and forth in the current as we moved along with it. A few small Nudibranchs were spotted on the wall and out in the blue a school of Giant Trevally was seen swimming by. The third dive today was on Orange Beach. This is the crew’s favorite site in Peleliu. A beautiful coral garden is littered with WWII artifacts. It is actually difficult to find a large sandy patch here as there is so much coral. Turtles and schools of fish liter this site. One guest was even able to spot the elusive Crocodile Fish hidden amongst some rumble along the sea floor. Our fourth dive was on Barracks Point. This site is a sheer was that runs into a sloping plateau. The star of this dive site had to be the Giant Clams. There are 3 in total that sit along the sloping plateau and if you have never seen one before you will be quite taken back. Each clam is over 100 years old and weighs over 500 pounds. They have an iridescent blue/purple mantle that sticks out and glimmers as the sun hits it. Our night dive tonight brought us back to Orange Beach. With so much coral on this site it makes for a great place for the small critters to hide in the evenings. Hundreds of shrimp dot this site as well as crabs and juvenile Spiny Lobsters.
Thursday morning we started the day off on the north side of Barracks Point. This is a shear wall that is covered in Sea Fans and corals. There is almost always a moderate current that races along this wall which brings plenty of sea life. A massive Dogtooth Tuna cruised by us as we floated down the wall. Schools of Trevally darted around chasing the smaller bait fish out in the blue. After enjoying this early morning dive we caught up with the big boat, which departed Camp Beck and was moored up in Turtle Cove. We gave the guests a few different choices for our next dive and they all chose to go back to Blue Corner. The current was very mild so we were able to explore the plateau for most of the dive. Our resident Napoleon’s were there waiting to be played with and quick to bump into you if you are not paying them any attention. We made our way down to the far side of the corner where there is a shark cleaning station located. As we floated still we could see the sharks come in from the deep blue and move slower and slower until almost stalling out over the coral head as the cleaner wrasse went to work. Our afternoon of diving started out at Barnums Wall and concluded in German Channel. We jumped into the water here on Barnums Wall and it was quite warm. As we descended you could see the warm and cold layers of water mix and the visibility turned out to be great. We slowly moved down the reef in search of all the critters we could find. We were able to find a large Blue-Spotted Marble Ray. German Channel did not disappoint us as this time we were able to see a few Manta Rays this time. The group was terribly excited as when they first dropped in one of the Manta’s was moving directly towards them. The group was able to hang around just outside the channel for the majority of the dive and enjoy not just this one but a second Manta Ray as well. After having our fill we slowly drifted down the channel for our safety stop and surfaced to a beautiful orange and pink sunset. The final night dive of the trip brought us back to German Channel. The soft corals that line the channel open up to feed at night at sway in a mesmerizing fashion as the current rushes by. A few Spot Fin Lionfish were seen underneath a coral head and a Moray Eel was out on the hunt.
Friday morning we started our diving on the famous Ulong Island. This is the site of the television reality series Survivor. Our first dive was on Siaes Corner. This corner dive it quite a ways out on the outer reef and is quite often filled with marine life. We were able to see Grey Reef sharks, White Tip Reef sharks and Black Tip Reef sharks all mixing amongst each other as we sat hooked in on the corner. A small school of Chevron Barracuda went by and what seemed like hundreds of Pyramid Butterfly fish danced along the reefs edge. Our second dive of the day was on Ulong Channel. We dropped in to a swift incoming current and quickly got to our hook in spot. The guests were amazed at the shark action on this site. The number of sharks seen was at least double that of what we saw on the first dive. Not only the sheer number of sharks but how close they would come as we watched them from the mouth of the channel. After spending 35 minutes hooked in we let the current take us down the channel. The Lettuce Coral patch amazed the guests. It is covers an area of approximately 30’ by 100’ which makes for amazing photos. Just past the Lettuce Coral we swam over a few coral heads and ended our dive taking photos of the Giant Clams. Our third dive of the day was on a site called Sandy Paradise. This site was amazing today. The visibility was 150’ plus and the marine life was phenomenal. We spotted four Leaf Scorpionfish, a Spotted Eagle Ray and three Octopi! The final dive of the day was Ulong Coral Garden. We slowly moved down the reef wall and into the shallows a bit. This site is more of a nursery for juvenile marine life. Plenty of juvenile Black Tip Reef sharks were about as well as Barracuda and Triggerfish. As we were swimming along we heard someone banging on their tank any pointing out into the blue. To our surprise there was a Manta Ray effortlessly flying by. What a beautiful way to end a week of diving in Palau.
Saturday morning the guests were all fired up to do Jellyfish Lake. We dropped the skiff at 0715 and headed over to do our snorkeling with the jellies. Millions of Jellyfish float about aimlessly in the lake. Their bright orange color and the sheer number of them make you feel as if you are on another planet. After spending about an hour in the lake we loaded up into the skiff and went on a Rock Island tour back towards Malakal Harbor. Once we arrived back at the big boat we switched up our gear and headed over to Chandelier Caves. The cave itself makes for a very cool dive but the highlight this week was just outside the entrance where we spotted a Devil Scorpion Fish and a few Mandarin Fish. We made our way back to the big boat and enjoyed a pulled pork buffet lunch set up by Christy. After a long break we all rejoined in the salon for the cocktail party. We were able to share a few stories, have a couple of laughs and Hector put on his slideshow of the week. After all was said and done the guests went out for dinner in town.
On Sunday morning many of us met up in the salon for a cup of coffee and a bit to eat before loading our bags up onto the bus. The crew said their final goodbyes and wished the guests a safe voyage home. We hope to see everyone again on another Aggressor voyage.